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Public Library nip and tuck is A-OK

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | JUNE 12, 2012 6:30 AM

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The Iowa City Public Library is a beautiful and relatively new building. It holds a wide variety of resources meant to attract all age groups with books, music, movies, and just a quiet place to do whatever it is you'd like to do. It's a WiFi hot spot with comfortable chairs and large windows setting an excellent atmosphere for anyone who wants comfort, quiet, and is tired of the smell of Starbucks coffee.

The library was renovated, expanded, and reopened as the two-story, colorful, and inviting glass building that it is only eight years ago. That project, to upgrade the library from a small, dark, and cramped building to the beauty it is now, was one that nearly doubled the size of our library and was quite the financial investment.

Now, to continue the trend of having an excellent library, the city has approved $200,000 in renovations over the next two years to keep our Public Library one of the best.

There are a few good questions we should ask ourselves when considering spending another $200,000, not the least of which is "Why?" Fortunately, this time, there is a good answer. The library is planning to provide more services to everyone, and the renovations are likely to be important and noticeable changes for anyone using the library — and will help in keeping it beautiful.

The changes proposed are all aiming to make the resources offered in the library more accessible, allow the employees to provide better customer service, and most importantly, to attract youth in larger numbers.

If ever there are good reasons for the city to invest any amount of money in public projects, providing a safe and inviting space for young people and encouraging reading and learning certainly are some. Currently, the young-adult section is a little corner cubby on the first floor that is cramped and crowded with few activities to offer teens.

The plan is to bring in more technology and move the teen area to the second floor, where the library will have more space and more activities, including gaming consoles, computers, and a wider variety of video games.

Even if you think teens are already playing too many video games, it's still good to know that there is a safe and inexpensive place teens can go to have fun in downtown Iowa City.

Another targeted group that will benefit from the renovations is elementary-school children. The library would like to provide a better computer area so that kids may use computers together rather than in solitude, because kids mostly use these things for group projects or to play games together.

Library Director Susan Craig said hopes that the new furniture will be enough to invite more kids into the library to use the resources and have more fun.

Most of the other upgrades are aimed to assist all groups of people using the library. For example, the first stages of the renovations will include adding a switchboard so that librarians may answer the phones, adding more self-serve book-check stations, and rearranging or expanding crowded sections.

Craig said that whenever she discussed the library changes with community members, many of them were most excited about the switchboard, which will make it possible that an actual librarian answer the phone rather than an electronic recording.

One librarian stacking shelves and rearranging the music section was particularly excited about getting extra shelving and having the extra space because it will lessen the mess and make things easier for anyone looking for a specific title, Craig said.

The library is a public gem, which means that it needs the support of the public. It provides a service that we certainly do not want to lose.

In all, the plan to remodel, install new equipment, and replace some particularly battered bits of carpet are estimated to cost a grand total of $420,000, but the total not covered by the city's investment will be collected through donations from private donors.

The library's board will vote on the proposed bid June 19, and construction will begin in September. While it is important to always check that we are spending money wisely and on things that are necessary and important, also remember that libraries are good for the community, and the better the library, the more likely it will attract the intended audience; in this case, young people.

Yes, our library is already lovely and large, but let's not sell ourselves short Iowa City — we can have the best.


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